Dr. Harsh Vardhan engages with Punjab to review preparedness and containment measures taken for COVID-19 management

New Delhi: Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare held a high level meeting, through video conference, with Sh. Balbir Singh Sidhu, Health Minister of Punjab in presence of Sh. Ashwini Kumar Choubey, MoS, Health and Family Welfare, here today. This is a part of series of one-to-one discussions with various States/UTs Health Ministers and Collectors of Red Zone and High priority districts to take stock of preparedness, and the actions being taken for management of COVID-19 in the States/UTs.

At the outset, Dr Harsh Vardhan stated that as on 13th May 2020, a total of 74,281 cases have been reported from the country in which 24,386 persons have been cured and 2,415 deaths had occurred. In the last 24 hours, 3,525 new confirmed cases have been added. While the doubling time in the past 14 days was 11, it has improved to 12.6 in the last three days, he noted. He added that the fatality rate is 3.2% and the recovery rate is pegged at 32.8%. He also added that (as of yesterday) there are 2.75% active COVID-19 patients in ICU, 0.37% on ventilators and 1.89% on oxygen support. Dr. Harsh Vardhan highlighted that the testing capacity has increased in the country to 1,00,000 tests per day through 352 Government laboratories and 140 private laboratories. Cumulatively, 18,56,477 tests have been done so far for COVID-19, whereas, 94708 samples were tested yesterday. “Today, there are nine States/UTs that have not reported any cases of COVID-19 in last 24 hrs. i.e. A&N Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Goa, Chhattisgarh, Ladakh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram. Also, Daman & Diu, Sikkim, Nagaland and Lakshadweep have not reported any cases till”, he stated.

The Union Minister stated that as of now 900 dedicated COVID hospitals with 1,79,882 beds (Isolation beds- 1,60,610 and ICU beds- 19,272) and 2,040 dedicated COVID Health Centres with 1,29,689 beds (Isolation beds- 1,19,340 and ICU beds- 10,349) along with 8,708 quarantine centres and 5,577 COVID Care Centres with 4,93,101 beds are now available to combat COVID-19 in the country. Centre has also provided 78.42 lakh N95 masks and 42.18 lakh Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) to the States/ UTs / Central Institutions, he further added.

Dr S K Singh, Director (NCDC) made a brief presentation on the status of COVID-19 cases in the State and its management. As on 12th May 2020, all 22 districts stand affected by COVID-19 with total 1913 cases; 3 districts (Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Patiala) are in Red Zone and 15 are in the Orange Zone. The total samples collected are 43,999 with sample positivity rate at 4.3%. The Nanded Hazoor Sahib returnees constituted the bulk of cases with 1,225 positive among the total of 4,216. It was also mentioned that the State has another challenge with the number of migrant labour returning being around 20,521.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan had detailed interaction with Shri Balbir Singh Sidhu and the DMs of the districts of Ludhiana, Amritsar, Patiala and Jalandhar of the various issues regarding COVID-19 management and the issues that form a priority. He appreciated the steps taken so far regarding the stringent adherence of the lockdown measures; meticulously done contact tracing; screening of all population in the containment areas; home delivery of essential services items and medicines during the lockdown to the population; and also the surveillance done for Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) / Influenza Like Illness (ILI) surveillance in the unaffected districts.

Dr Harsh Vardhan said that Punjab has done well in operationalising the Ayushman Bharat – Health and Wellness Centers. These could be further used for screening of people with diabetes, hypertension and three common cancers (oral, breast and cervix), and for extension of comprehensive primary healthcare services to the community at large.

He also requested the State to further strengthen SARI/ILI screening, in addition to ensuring that non-COVID health issues such as immunisation drives, TB case finding and treatment, providing blood transfusion for dialysis patients, treatment of cancer patients, ANC of pregnant women, etc., are not adversely affected. As the available data indicate a decline in the notification of TB cases in the private and public clinics, the State needs to give priority to this area too. Pointing out that timely payment of salaries and performance linked incentives would boost the morale of the frontline health workers, State was requested to release these in time. He also suggested that the downloading of Aarogya Setu should be made compulsory for all returnees for better contact surveillance and suitable medical interventions. Further, awareness about the State Helpline number 104 needs to be enhanced, and the number of call centres can also be augmented under NHM. The Call Centre agents across the country have been trained to address issues of stigma against COVID-19 patients, health workers and even the recovered patients as well, hence their services may be used for this purpose too.

The State Health Minister stated that even during the lockdown, the OPD services had been continued and non-COVID healthcare delivery has not suffered. They have screened 6,58,000 population through house-to-house surveillance. Punjab has developed its own dashboard which generates a heat map which is used to define and demarginalise the emerging hotspots for effective containment measures, it was stated. Shri Sidhu stated all the returning pilgrims from Nanded Sahib have been screened, tested and quarantined to prevent them from interacting with the community at large, thus effectively preventing the spread of the transmission. Moreover, a death audit has also been undertaken which has indicated that patients with co-morbidities formed a large percentage of the COVID-19 deaths in Punjab. Also, more than 85% patients are asymptomatic, Shri Anurag Agrawal, Pr. Secretary (Health) stated. All the guidelines/advisories/protocols have been strictly been followed in the State for guiding their medical interventions, he added.

Shri Rajesh Bhushan, OSD (HFW), Dr. Manohar Agnani, Joint Secretary (MoHFW), Dr. Rajiv Garg, DGHS and other senior health officials from both Centre and State participated in the meeting.